AUGUSTA — Parents who question the safety of vaccines are battling with Maine’s medical establishment over two bills that could have the effect of lowering vaccination rates.

One bill would require doctors to give lists to parents showing all the ingredients in vaccines for children. The second would make it easier for children to stay in school without being immunized.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee held public hearings Tuesday on both bills, L.D. 694 and L.D. 941.

Supporters of the bills say that parents deserve to know exactly what is being injected into their children, and that people should have the right to reject all vaccinations for themselves and their children.

Opponents, including several doctors and nurses and the Maine Medical Association, say vaccines are safe and have proven to be successful in virtually eliminating several deadly and devastating diseases, such as polio and whooping cough.

They say the vaccines aren’t effective for society unless there are high vaccination rates, so they are alarmed by the declining vaccination rate in Maine over the past decade, from 90 percent to less than 80 percent.

The testimony was at times emotional. Ginger Taylor of Brunswick, the mother of a boy with autism, said her son began showing symptoms after he was vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis when he was 18 months old.

“I am here to fight for our right to say no,” Taylor said.

Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, who works as a pediatric nurse, said unwarranted fears about vaccinations are dangerous.

“The illnesses that we are talking about vaccinating for kill you,” she told the committee. “This is how you prevent the really bad, scary stuff.”

L.D. 694, sponsored by Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, would require health care providers to give parents a list of the ingredients in any vaccine.

Federal law already requires doctors to provide a fact sheet that includes information about a vaccine, such as risks and potential reactions, but does not list the ingredients.

The bill’s supporters say the public deserves to know the ingredients, which in some vaccines include aluminum and formaldehyde, which is embalming fluid.

The bill would make it easier for parents to speak with their doctors about the ingredients of vaccines, Boland said.

Doctors who testified Tuesday said miniscule amounts of those ingredients are necessary for vaccines to be stored safely and to be effective. They say that forcing doctors to give out lists would unnecessarily alarm people and make vaccinating people cumbersome.

Jennifer Hayman, a pediatrician in Portland, said the federal Food and Drug Administration spends enormous money and effort to determine the safety of vaccines. Requiring a doctor to inform patients of the ingredients would be like requiring a grocery store cashier to give lists of ingredients to customers at the time of purchase, she said.

L.D. 941 aims to prohibit mandatory immunizations, even though immunizations aren’t now mandatory. A governor can use emergency powers to mandate vaccinations, such as during a biological attack.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, said he wants to protect people’s basic personal liberties.

Stephen Sears, acting director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the bill would make it difficult for schools to prevent children who have not been immunized from being enrolled, thus exposing other children to much greater health risks.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at: [email protected]

 


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